Bristol Blenheim Mk1
The Bristol Blenheim is a truly unique aircraft and was a milestone in the history of British aviation as the first stressed skin aeroplane accepted by the RAF. It bore the brunt of the early war bombing effort and its crews paid a heavy price defending the nation, Winston Churchill paid homage to their bravery comparing them to the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'. At the start of the war the RAF had 1089 Blenheim bombers in service, more than any other aircraft however, this is now the only flying example left in the world and serves as a lasting memorial to those who crewed them.
The restoration wouldn't have been possible without the ARC Volunteers who put in over 25,000 man hours to help the rebuild and the Blenheim Society whose relentless fund raising helped to keep the project afloat.
The Mk1 Nose of our Blenheim has a particularly interesting history. It began life as a Bristol Blenheim Mk1 built under license by AVRO and issued to 23 Squadron on 2nd September 1939, serial number L6739. It served as a night fighter throughout the Battle of Britain before being struck off charge in December 1940 after which it went back to Bristol's and was left in their scrapyard. After the war an innovative electrician by the name of Ralph Nelson, who was working at Bristol's, was given permission to buy the nose which he then went on to convert into an electric car. After mounting it to the chassis of an Austin 7 he fitted an electric motor of his own design and registered it as a 'Nelson' with the index JAD347. Ralph drove the car for 10 years before it suffered a fire which damaged the systems beyond repair, however, he had heard of the ongoing 2nd Blenheim restoration at Duxford and donated the car to the project in 1992.
Thankfully Ralph had kept most of the original systems such as the control column, rudder pedals, trim system and fittings including the seat and frame, so after hours of reverse engineering and a huge amount of fabrication work we where able to turn the much loved car back into the Blenheim nose you see today. If you have a chance to see it up close in the future look for the tax disc in one of the front windows, we decided to leave it in as a lasting legacy of Ralph and his car for which this project wouldn't have been possible without.
Bristol Blenheim Gallery
For more information on the Blenheim and to find out how you can get involved in keeping her flying, please follow the button below to The Blenheim Society website.